Smearing the messenger

The Bush machine aims its poison darts at another military hero -- Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski.

Published March 15, 2004 11:49PM (EST)

There they go again. Whenever the Bush machine is put on the defensive, it immediately goes on the offensive, and character assassination is one of its favorite weapons. I'm not talking about the attacks on John Kerry's patriotism. I'm talking about the poison-tipped assault on another military veteran, retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, whose damning eyewitness account of how neoconservative zealots in the Defense Department bulldozed the facts and drove the country to war was published in Salon last week ("The New Pentagon Papers").

Kwiatkowski's right-wing critics could not challenge her facts, not a single one, so they immediately reached for the tar brush. The Wall Street Journal smeared her as "something of a right-wing crank." Max Boot, a conservative columnist for the Los Angeles Times, trashed her as "flaky." Then Clifford May, a hit man for the Republican National Committee, was given free reign by John Gibson, host of Fox News' "The Big Show," to drag the 20-year Air Force veteran through the mud after Fox turned off her microphone -- one more bold display of the network's commitment to fairness and balance. Once she was silenced, Gibson and May smeared Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski as an "anarchist" with "radical associations" to political weirdoes like Lyndon LaRouche.

The truth -- never an interest of these right-wing hatchet men -- is that the former Air Force intelligence officer comes from a politically conservative family and subscribes to a libertarian philosophy. She once gave an interview to a LaRouche publication -- the full extent of her "association" with this political fringe. By the RNC man's strained logic, the fact that she also spoke to Fox News should make her a Rupert Murdoch acolyte.

If I were part of the Bush reelection team, I would want to cloud reality too. The disturbing reality that Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski presented was of an administration driven by ideologues so determined to rush into an Iraq war that they would not let intelligence or expertise or facts get in their way. We are all now paying for the folly of these men, none more than Kwiatkowski's former colleagues in the military, who are fighting and dying in Iraq. The fact that many of Kwiatkowski's neoconservative opponents have never served their country in uniform makes the Bush machine's personal attacks against her all the more repellent.

Unlike Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski's character assassins, she served her country honorably for 20 years -- and she is serving America again by bravely telling the truth about the policies of deceit that led us to war.

The tens of thousands of readers who have clicked on Kwiatkowski's revealing exposé know this and you have flooded Salon with e-mails in praise of her courage and integrity. We want you to know that Salon will continue to stand by her and will continue to publish eye-opening reports on the Bush administration and its extremist policies.

But we need you to stand by us. If you do not already subscribe to Salon, now is the time to do so through this page. If you're already a subscriber we encourage you to give the gift of Salon for just $20 or renew your subscription today. Help Salon fight against the truth-twisters and the smear artists. Help us keep shining a light on the dark corners of power. We cannot do it without you.

By David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

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